MSN Content Plus

Reviewed by: Dave Lee, September 2005, updated January 2007
Published by: MSN Content Plus Inc (updated link)
Requires: Windows 98 or higher, AMD or Pentium processor
MSRP: US$20.00 (single user module license)

Users who have been online for a while will remember the headier days of Instant Messaging (IM) with ICQ. If you were an AOL member, you had AOL Instant Messaging. It was fun! You could say "Hello" and carry on a conversation with a friend pretty well anywhere on the planet. You could also do peer-to-peer file transfers without any problems (those were pre-Napster days too), and you could customize the sounds that ICQ made when it performed a function. In fact a whole library of sound clips became available on the ICQ site for just such a thing. That was the fun part of IM.

Then the competition came along—Windows Messenger and Yahoo! Messenger entered the fray. All of the IM programs were good for simple text messaging. You could IM with people that you had on your contact lists and, originally, other people that you didn't know could say hello to you. Ah the headier, startup days of IM. But the Internet grew up, and so did IM.

In September 2005 AOL had the largest group of users at about 41 million, followed by Yahoo! Messenger at around 15 million and MSN Messenger at about 14 million users. ICQ numbers were harder to come by as it was purchased by AOL which subsequently ruined the program for me. Most of my friends also stopped using ICQ, so I wonder about how many of AOL's 41 million 2005 users were actually ICQ-only users? It's still a big download on all of the download services. In September 2005 Google entered the fray with the release of Google Talk. Fast forward to 2007 and MSN Messenger and Yahoo! Messenger lead the pack.


I have all of the above installed on my computer. Each IM client has its pluses and minuses. I use the one I need to communicate with a particular person. Some of my friends use Trillian as it handles most of the IM programs. But the one I keep active most of the time is MSN Messenger, only because Windows Messenger came with the operating system, and I have upgraded it from Windows to MSN. This brings me to the point of this review: How do you spice up your instant messaging? You can add MSN Content Plus.

MSN Messenger allow for Emoticons (little smiley faces and the like), Winks (little Flash popups that can be kinda cute) and you can change your background picture in your message window and that of your contact’s (similar to Yahoo! Messenger). MSN Messenger 7.5 includes a new voice clip feature, whereby you can record a few seconds of audio and send it, rather than text. This version also offers better video and audio performance. The emoticons, winks, backgrounds and nudges are continued. Most of the IM programs also now offer direct webcam viewing so you can see the person you are chatting with.

MSN Content Plus adds even more to MSN Messenger with the addition of new emoticons, backgrounds and winks. There are the default ones that come with Messenger and a What's New link that takes you to the MSN Content Plus web site for updates. This feature offers custom emoticons, winks and backgrounds that can really add to your IM experience, albeit at a cost. I will, however, give MSN Content Plus full credit for allowing a few emoticons, winks and backgrounds to be downloaded for free. You have to search through all that is offered to find them, but they are there, and maybe you will get hooked and register.

The MSN Content Plus installer that I was offered for review worked flawlessly and put a shortcut icon on my desktop. Clicking the icon takes you to 10 pages of winks, 7 pages of emoticons and 2 pages of dynamic display picture packs. You'll also find links to Home, winks packs, emoticon packs and Muggins packs. The Home link takes you to the MSN Content Plus page that lets you register at a fee of $20.00 per feature.

The features I really liked are the dynamic ones. Dynamic means the icon, picture or background are animated. There are dynamic display pictures, dynamic backgrounds and icons that seem to be available only from MSN Content Plus, at least I haven't seen this kind of stuff at Mess Media or elsewhere yet. But I have received better dynamic icons from my friends than those I have seen on the MSN Content Plus web site. I particularly like the double sized dynamic icons that have come across my Messenger. But I digress.

Is it worth it? At $1.00 per background, you have to make that call. Personally, I have found that most of my contacts are not interested in sharing backgrounds, so while dynamic backgrounds are nice, they can sometimes make message text hard to read. Winks are another story and I've had a lot of fun with them. Winks also typically run $1.00 per, so for the $20.00 registration, you'll get your money's worth here.

Emoticons? Forget it. Save your money and spend it on winks or dynamic display pictures. Most of the pages that MSN Content Plus offers are pretty infantile, and as I've mentioned before, a lot of better ones are being sent around the MSN Messenger circuit for free. If you’re an experienced Messenger user, you'll know how to capture them. However, I noticed just before I submitted this review that there is a new set of Dynamic Emoticons available and the Superheroes ones are free. This is the style of emoticon that I personally like and maybe you will too.

Dynamic Display Pictures? Maybe. At $1.50 per download there are enough good ones to make it worthwhile registering for the MSN Content Plus Display Picture Installer. I can see this feature being used for live video in a future version of Messenger. At the size of the display picture, it won't take up much bandwidth to transmit a low frame rate video. You can emote yourself live from a camera and be your own dynamic display picture.

I should also mention that MSN Content Plus offers static display pictures on a variety of subjects. But why would you purchase these when MSN Messenger allows you to make your own from any static photo or picture that you already have? However, MSN Content Plus has come up with a new feature called Creaticons—again at a dollar a pop—that allow you to put your text with their picture. This is new, and I haven't had a chance to test it yet, but it doesn't look too promising.

My advice? No matter which IM you use, keep the program minimized to the taskbar (unless you live inside the IM program). If you're an MSN Messenger user and want to spice things up, look at what MSN Content Plus has to offer. Have fun!





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